stickers on suitcases

After an exhausting amount of traveling (11 countries (I think?) in 60 days), I’m looking at my trusty suitcase and there’s quite in assortment of stickers on it which indicate it was screened at such-and-such airport.

But what about those old style stickers you’d see on suitcases in Bugs Bunny cartoons: were they purely decorative or was there a practical purpose to them?

I believe they were destination stickers. You got them to prove where you’ve been.

If you travelled in the pre-air-travel era, i.e., more than about 40 years ago, when most people travelled around the world by ship, then you spent several days or weeks on the ship, sharing a small cabin with one or more others. (There are several scenes in the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera that illustrate this). There wasn’t enough room in the cabin for all your luggage (an one scene in that movie illustrates the problem), so most of it went into the ship’s hold, where (of course) it was labelled with your name and the name of the shipping company, so it could be retrieved either during the voyage or at your destination. That was the origin of some of those labels that you see on suitcases.

(Cite: my personal experience, travelling between Europe and Australia in 1955 and 1961. I also did it in 1947, but I was too young to remember that voyage now.)

Either, depending on the sticker. As Giles says, if you traveled by boat, or on an organized train or coach tour, you might get a functional sticker to make sure your luggage ended up in the right place.

But purely decorative stickers were also popular. Most suitcases in that era were made of smooth laminated plastic, you could put adhesive stickers or decals on them. They sold them everywhere, up through the 1960’s. I used to put one on my suitcase for every state we entered on our family car vacations. They looked like vintage postcards–tacky but cool at the same time. I’m telling you, it broke my heart when I finally had to get rid of that suitcase!